Relative Fortunes by Marlowe Benn

Relative Fortunes by Marlowe Benn

Published:  August 2019 – Lake Union

Book courtesy of the publisher and Little Bird Publicity

Description:  In 1924 Manhattan, women’s suffrage is old news. For sophisticated booklover Julia Kydd, life’s too short for politics. With her cropped hair and penchant for independent living, Julia wants only to launch her own new private press. But as a woman, Julia must fight for what’s hers—including the inheritance her estranged half brother, Philip, has challenged, putting her aspirations in jeopardy.

When her friend’s sister, Naomi Rankin, dies suddenly of an apparent suicide, Julia is shocked at the wealthy family’s indifference toward the ardent suffragist’s death. Naomi chose poverty and hardship over a submissive marriage and a husband’s control of her money. Now, her death suggests the struggle was more than she could bear.

Julia, however, is skeptical. Doubtful of her suspicions, Philip proposes a glib wager: if Julia can prove Naomi was in fact murdered, he’ll drop his claims to her wealth. Julia soon discovers Naomi’s life was as turbulent and enigmatic as her death. And as she gets closer to the truth, Julia sees there’s much more at stake than her inheritance… (publisher)

My take:  Julia Kydd sails from England to New York with the sole purpose of claiming her inheritance upon her 25th birthday. That evolves into a fight with her half-brother that keeps her in New York longer than she’d expected. They strike a deal – a bet, really – in which the winnings (the inheritance) will go to the victor. I won’t spoil by revealing more. What I can say is that fans of historical mysteries, a post WWI New York City setting, and snappy writing of the era will probably enjoy Relative Fortunes as much as I did. I’ll be watching for the second book in the Julia Kidd series.


About the author:

Marlowe Benn (who also writes as Megan Benton) was nominated for UCLA’s 2013 Kirkwood Prize for fiction. Her poetry has appeared in the Chicago Review and other outlets, and her history of American book culture between the wars, Beauty and the Book, was published by Yale University Press in 2000.


 

Last Summer by Kerry Lonsdale

Last Summer by Kerry Lonsdale

Published July 9, 2019 – Lake Union Publishing

Book courtesy of the publisher and Little Bird Publicity

Description:  Lifestyle journalist Ella Skye remembers every celebrity she interviewed, every politician she charmed between the sheets, and every socialite who eyed her with envy. The chance meeting with her husband, Damien; their rapid free fall into love; and their low-key, intimate wedding are all locked in her memory. But what she can’t remember is the tragic car accident that ripped her unborn child from her. Ella can’t even recall being pregnant.

Hoping to find the memories of a lost pregnancy that’s left her husband devastated and their home empty, Ella begins delving into her past when she’s assigned an exclusive story about Nathan Donovan, a retired celebrity adventurer who seems to know more about her than she does him. To unravel the mystery of her selective memory loss, Ella follows Nathan from the snowcapped Sierra Nevada to the frozen slopes of southeast Alaska. There she discovers the people she trusts most aren’t the only ones keeping secrets from her—she’s hiding them from herself. Ella quickly learns that some truths are best left forgotten. (publisher)

My take:  So this is one of those books where I was glad I didn’t know much going in. I decided early on it would be best to just go along for the ride with this steamy story – and what a crazy ride it was. There are beautiful, rich people behaving badly. They’ve lost their moral compass – assuming they every possessed one. There’s the selective memory loss theme that seemed so far-fetched but I was willing to get on board with because Kerry Lonsdale also made it appear kind of plausible. Last Summer was an addictive book that I read quickly and recommend if you like twisty, steamy and unbelievably crazy plots. Given the epilogue, I wonder if Ella’s story will continue.


About the author:

Kerry Lonsdale is the Wall Street Journal, Amazon Charts, and #1 Amazon Kindle bestselling author of the Everything series—Everything We Keep, Everything We Left Behind, and Everything We Give—as well as All the Breaking Waves. She resides in Northern California with her husband and two children. Learn more about Kerry at http://www.kerrylonsdale.com


 

False Step by Victoria Helen Stone

False Step by Victoria Helen Stone

Pub. Date:  July 1, 2019 – Lake Union Publishing

Review galley from the publisher, Little Bird Publicity, and NetGalley

Description:  Stay calm, keep smiling, and watch your step. In this marriage of secrets and lies, nothing is what it seems.

For days, all of Denver, Colorado, has worried over the fate of a missing child, little Tanner Holcomb. Then, a miracle: handsome, athletic Johnny Bradley finds him, frightened but unharmed, on a hiking trail miles from his wealthy family’s mountain home.

In a heartbeat, his rescuer goes from financially strapped fitness trainer to celebrated hero. The heat of the spotlight may prove too much for Johnny’s picture-perfect family, however. His wife, Veronica, despises the pressure of the sudden fame, afraid that secrets and bitter resentments of her marriage may come to light. And she’s willing to do anything to keep them hidden.

But when a shocking revelation exposes an even darker side to Tanner’s disappearance, Veronica realizes that nothing in her life can be trusted. And everything should be feared. (publisher)

My take:  Veronica has maintained the appearance of a happy family life but really she’s tired of the charade. She can’t reveal the truth because of the pain it would cause her daughter – the same pain she herself felt growing up in a home that lacked the security of loving parents. Veronica also has a secret she knows would devastate her daughter if discovered. When her husband becomes an instant celebrity after rescuing a lost child Veronica starts to notice things that just don’t seem right. Soon her life is running out of her control and she doesn’t know who to trust. Questionable decisions by Veronica lead her to a dramatic denouement that confirmed my early suspicions of what happened.  I was a little disappointed by that because I like being shocked or surprised by the “who done it” in a suspense novel. I might be in the minority in that regard. False Step is a very quick read making it a perfect beach book or a while away the afternoon on the front porch read.


About the author:

Victoria Helen Stone, formerly writing as USA Today bestselling novelist Victoria Dahl, now writes dark suspense from her home in Utah. Her novels include the bestselling and critically-acclaimed Jane Doe; Evelyn, After; and Half Past.


 

Have You Seen Luis Velez? by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Have You Seen Luis Velez? by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Published: May 21, 2019 – Lake Union Publishing

Review copy from the publisher and Little Bird Publicity

Description: Raymond Jaffe feels like he doesn’t belong. Not with his mother’s new family. Not as a weekend guest with his father and his father’s wife. Not at school, where he’s an outcast. After his best friend moves away, Raymond has only two real connections: to the feral cat he’s tamed and to a blind ninety-two-year-old woman in his building who’s introduced herself with a curious question: Have you seen Luis Velez?

Mildred Gutermann, a German Jew who narrowly escaped the Holocaust, has been alone since her caretaker disappeared. She turns to Raymond for help, and as he tries to track Luis down, a deep and unexpected friendship blossoms between the two.

Despondent at the loss of Luis, Mildred isolates herself further from a neighborhood devolving into bigotry and fear. Determined not to let her give up, Raymond helps her see that for every terrible act the world delivers, there is a mirror image of deep kindness, and Mildred helps Raymond see that there’s hope if you have someone to hold on to. (publisher)

My take:  On the day that seventeen-year-old Raymond’s closest (and only) friend moves to California he meets Mrs. Gutermann in the hallway of their New York apartment building. She’s in her nineties and is blind. She’s been waiting for the man who helps her with errands, etc. for several weeks. He doesn’t answer his phone and she’s worried. She asks anyone who passes her in the building if they’ve seen Luis Velez. One thing leads to another and Raymond finds himself on a quest to find out what happened to Luis. Along the way he’ll find a new friend or two – especially in Mrs. G.  I loved their relationship – how it grew and the impact it had on both of them. Truly special. They have things to learn from each other. On a larger scale I liked how the novel (and all of the books I’ve read by this author) makes the point that if people would act out of kindness and empathy the world would be a better place. I’m so glad I had the chance to read this book.

There are discussion questions included.


About the author:

Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of more than thirty published and forthcoming books. An avid hiker, traveler, equestrian, and amateur photographer, she has released her first book of photos, 365 Days of Gratitude: Photos from a Beautiful World. Her novel Pay It Forward was adapted into a major motion picture, chosen by the American Library Association for its Best Books for Young Adults list, and translated into more than twenty-three languages for distribution in more than thirty countries. Both Becoming Chloe and Jumpstart the World were included on the ALA’s Rainbow Book List, and Jumpstart the World was a finalist for two Lambda Literary Awards. Where We Belong won two Rainbow Awards in 2013, and The Language of Hoofbeats won a Rainbow Award in 2015. More than fifty of her short stories have been published in the Antioch Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, and many other journals and in the anthologies Santa Barbara Stories, California Shorts, and New York Times bestseller Dog Is My Co-Pilot. Her stories have been honored in the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest and the Tobias Wolff Award and nominated for the O. Henry Award and the Pushcart Prize. Three have been cited in Best American Short Stories. She is the founder and former president (2000–2009) of the Pay It Forward Foundation and still serves on its board of directors. As a professional public speaker, she has addressed the National Conference on Education, spoken at Cornell University twice, met with AmeriCorps members at the White House, and shared a dais with Bill Clinton. For more information and book club questions, please visit the author at http://www.catherineryanhyde.com.


 

The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen

The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen

Lake Union Publishing – February 2019

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Little Bird Publicity

Description:  While World War I rages on the European continent, young Emily Bryce is getting restless under the thumb of her over-protective parents in Devonshire. Her best friend Clarissa is serving as a nurse at the front while Emily has been kept at home visiting wounded officers at a local convalescent hospital. There she meets a young rough-around-the-edges Australian pilot and falls in love with him, much to her parents’ chagrin. What’s more, Emily decides to finally set off on her own and contribute to the war effort, becoming a member of the Women’s Land Army, a post her mother finds most unsuitable. (publisher)

My take:  Emily Bryce has led a sheltered life. When she turns 21 she’s determined to do more to help her country which is in the midst of WWI. She joins the Women’s Land Army and learns to work with her hands. She meets a vast array of women who will become more family than acquaintances.

There’s a character who, near the end of the novel, says “We’ve no idea what we can do until we try.”  For me, that was the underlying tone of the novel. It’s a story about people who rose to the occasion. I loved Emily’s spirit and felt her emotional highs and lows throughout the story. She possessed an admirable strength of character.

Rhys Bowen’s novel explores the personal losses experienced during the war, new paths to travel in life, and a bit of a mystery to be solved. I loved learning about the Women’s Land Army. The Victory Garden is a satisfying work of historical fiction that I’m happy to recommend to fans of the genre and Rhys Bowen.


About the author:

Rhys Bowen is the New York Times bestselling author of 40 mystery novels. Her work includes In Farleigh Field and The Tuscan Child, both standalone novels about World War II; the Molly Murphy mysteries, set in 1900s New York City; the Royal Spyness novels, featuring a minor royal in 1930s England; and the Constable Evans mysteries about a police constable in contemporary Wales. Rhys’s works have won multiple Agatha, Anthony, and MacAvity awards, and In Farleigh Field was a 2018 Edgar Award nominee and Lefty Award winner. Rhys is a transplanted Brit who now divides her time between California and Arizona. Connect with her at rhysbowen.com


Praise for Rhys Bowen:

“Rhys Bowen is one of the very best fiction writers of the day. With a deep understanding of the wounded human heart, and an uncanny ability to capture the quiet emotions and the grand scale of war, she rises above her contemporaries.”
Louise Penny, New York Times bestselling author


 

Beautiful Exiles by Meg Waite Clayton

Beautiful Exiles by Meg Waite Clayton

Lake Union Publishing:  August 1, 2018

Review copy courtesy of Lake Union and Little Bird Publicity

Description:  Key West, 1936. Headstrong, accomplished journalist Martha Gellhorn is confident with words but less so with men when she meets disheveled literary titan Ernest Hemingway in a dive bar. Their friendship—forged over writing, talk, and family dinners—flourishes into something undeniable in Madrid while they’re covering the Spanish Civil War.

Martha reveres him. The very married Hemingway is taken with Martha—her beauty, her ambition, and her fearless spirit. And as Hemingway tells her, the most powerful love stories are always set against the fury of war. The risks are so much greater. They’re made for each other.

With their romance unfolding as they travel the globe, Martha establishes herself as one of the world’s foremost war correspondents, and Hemingway begins the novel that will win him the Nobel Prize for Literature. Beautiful Exiles is a stirring story of lovers and rivals, of the breathless attraction to power and fame, and of one woman—ahead of her time—claiming her own identity from the wreckage of love. (publisher)

My take:  Meg Waite Clayton’s novel about the relationship of journalist Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway is obviously well-researched. In her author’s note she describes the books, articles, letters etc. used to flesh out events and characters.

The book begins in 1936 when Gellhorn meets Hemingway. Over the course of their relationship they travel a good part of the world, witnessing and reporting on remarkable events. The two carry more emotional baggage than most couples and continue to add to it over the years. I guess my sympathies are with Gellhorn but she was not totally without responsibility in the fate of their marriage. I really don’t care for Hemingway – at least the way he’s always been portrayed. He clearly had his demons and they were usually on the front burner. In the end, they lived amazing lives and made me wonder who our modern-day Gellhorn and Hemingway are.

I recommend Beautiful Exiles to fans of the genre and Meg Waite Clayton. The reason I enjoy historical fiction is I usually learn new things about people or events – that was the case in this book.


About the author:

Meg Waite Clayton is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of five prior novels, including the Langum-Prize honored The Race for Paris and PEN/Bellwether Prize finalist The Language of Light. Entertainment Weekly named her novel The Wednesday Sisters one of the “25 Essential Best Friend Novels” of all time. Clayton has written for the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Writer’s Digest, Runner’s World, and public radio. A graduate of the University of Michigan and its law school, she has lived around the country and now resides in Palo Alto.


 

Heaven Adjacent by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Review copy courtesy of Lake Union and Little Bird Publicity

Lake Union Publishing | June 19, 2018
Paperback: $14.95 | ISBN: 978-1503900394
eBook: $4.99 | ASIN: B076KYS66K

Description: Roseanna Chaldecott wants just one thing: peace and quiet. After the sudden loss of her lifelong best friend and law partner, Roseanna abandons her cushy yet unfulfilling life as a New York City lawyer and drives into the countryside without a firm destination in mind. As the car is just about out of gas, she stumbles upon the place she didn’t even know she was looking for: a tiny
house on a beautiful patch of green, tucked away in the hills, with a “For Sale” sign out front. Not a few hours later, Roseanna is the proud owner of this little slice of paradise and committed to a new
life away from the city.
But in HEAVEN ADJACENT (Lake Union Publishing; on sale June 19th, 2018), there’s a catch: Roseanna isn’t the only person enamored by her peaceful hideaway. On the first night in her new
abode she meets Patty and her five-year-old daughter Willa, who’ve been living on the property and can’t afford their own place. Soon others start traveling through, and as Roseanna explains why she exchanged her comfortable lifestyle for the simplicity of a shack in the woods, a few passersby become additional squatters interrupting her silence and solitude. Though she is adamant their days on the property are numbered, she reluctantly lets them stay.
Back in Manhattan, no one knows Roseanna’s whereabouts for months, not even her remaining ex-law partner, Jerry, or her estranged son, Lance. But after the New York Times runs an article about
Roseanna and the peculiar array of metal sculptures she’s created, Lance arrives to convince her to return home—and Jerry threatens her with a hefty lawsuit for abandoning the firm. As she comes to grips with the possibility of losing everything, Roseanna begins to ask herself what—and who—matters the most to her, and whether the isolation she yearned for is truly the cornerstone of her next chapter in life.
The author of more than 30 books, including the critically-acclaimed novel Pay It Forward, Catherine Ryan Hyde presents readers with a middle-aged woman who still has a lot to learn about who she really is, and a cast of characters who chip away at the hard exterior she’s built up over the hectic life that’s passed her by. As Roseanna beings to accept a new reality free of material wealth, she discovers that she is rich in something that can’t be replaced: family. HEAVEN ADJACENT is a novel about realizing life is too short to put off happiness, and that shows the people we celebrate each day with should make us the most joyful of all. (publisher)

My take:  Roseanna’s approach to work was do it for as long as it took to ensure she could retire at some point and enjoy a comfortable life. When her best friend who held the same mindset suddenly died Roseanna made a change that bewildered her coworkers, family and even herself.

This is a story about resetting one’s priorities. Filled with quirky characters who were part of Roseanna’s new life this novel made me chuckle at times and it made me think about the possibilities that are always around us – but are we brave enough to consider making changes. I really enjoyed it. It’s the third of Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novels I’ve read and, just like the previous ones, it left me with a warm feeling and very happy to have read it. Recommended.


About the author:

Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of 33 published books. Her bestselling 1999 novel, Pay It
Forward, was adapted into a major Warner Bros. motion picture, made the American Library
Association’s Best Books for Young Adults list, and has been translated into more than two dozen
languages in 30 countries. More than 50 of her short stories have been published in journals, and her short fiction received honorable mention in the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest, a second-place win for the Tobias Wolff Award, and nominations for Best American Short Stories, the O. Henry Award, and the Pushcart Prize. Three have also been cited in Best American Short Stories.
Hyde is the founder and former president of the Pay It Forward Foundation.


 

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen

  • Title:  The Tuscan Child
  • Author:  Rhys Bowen
  • Pages:  329
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction
  • Published:  February 2018 – Lake Union Publishing
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley; Little Bird Publicity

Description:  From New York Times bestselling author Rhys Bowen comes a haunting novel about a woman who braves her father’s hidden past to discover his secrets…

In 1944, British bomber pilot Hugo Langley parachuted from his stricken plane into the verdant fields of German-occupied Tuscany. Badly wounded, he found refuge in a ruined monastery and in the arms of Sofia Bartoli. But the love that kindled between them was shaken by an irreversible betrayal.

Nearly thirty years later, Hugo’s estranged daughter, Joanna, has returned home to the English countryside to arrange her father’s funeral. Among his personal effects is an unopened letter addressed to Sofia. In it is a startling revelation.

Still dealing with the emotional wounds of her own personal trauma, Joanna embarks on a healing journey to Tuscany to understand her father’s history—and maybe come to understand herself as well. Joanna soon discovers that some would prefer the past be left undisturbed, but she has come too far to let go of her father’s secrets now… (publisher)

My take:  The Tuscan Child is the story of two families who never would have met if not for WWII. Lord Hugo Langley’s plane was shot down over a tiny town in Tuscany. He was eventually discovered by a young woman from the town, Sophia Bartoli.

The story unfolds in a dual-timeline told from the perspectives of Lord Hugo and his daughter Joanna. I thought that worked well in the development of the plot. I liked the story well enough but I didn’t feel connected to the characters until the last few chapters. That could all be on me though so don’t let that dissuade you from reading the book.

The descriptions of Tuscany and the food especially are lovely. The mystery involving Lord Hugo and Sophia was interesting and all seemed to be solved at the end. I think readers who like the era of WWII in Italy and a story of survival against all odds will find The Tuscan Child an interesting novel.


About the author:

Rhys Bowen is the New York Times bestselling author of over thirty mystery novels. Her work includes In Farleigh Field, a standalone novel of World War II; the Molly Murphy mysteries, set in 1900s New York City; the Royal Spyness novels, featuring a minor royal in 1930s England; and the Constable Evans mysteries about a police constable in contemporary Wales. Rhys’s works have won multiple Agatha, Anthony, and MacAvity awards. Her books have been translated into many languages, and she has fans from around the world, including the 12,000 who visit her Facebook page daily. She is a transplanted Brit who now divides her time between California and Arizona. Connect with her at rhysbowen.com.

Photo credit: John Quin-Harkin


Praise for Rhys Bowen

In Farleigh Field

“This well-crafted, thoroughly entertaining thriller from Agatha Award-winner Bowen follows the lives of three childhood friends…. Soon it’s a game of spy versus spy, and with every twist and turn, the reader is unsure whom to trust.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Instantly absorbing, suspenseful, romantic and stylish.”

—Lee Child, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

“Rhys Bowen is one of the very best fiction writers of the day. With a deep understanding of the wounded human heart and an uncanny ability to capture the quiet emotions and the grand scale of war, she rises above her contemporaries. This is magnificently written and a must read.”

—Louise Penny, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

The Royal Spyness Mysteries

“Wonderful characters…A delight.” —Charlaine Harris, New York Times bestselling author

“This is a pitch-perfect book, which will charm you in one sentence, chill you in the next.” —Laura Lippman, winner of the Edgar, Shamus, Anthony and Agatha Awards

“Georgie’s high spirits and the author’s frothy prose are utterly captivating.” —The Denver Post

“The perfect fix between seasons for Downton Abbey addicts.”
—Deborah Crombie, New York Times bestselling author of The Sound of Broken Glass

“A smashing romp.” —Booklist

The Molly Murphy Mysteries

“Perceptive and poignant writing… make us look forward to Molly’s return.” —Chicago Tribune

“A charming combination of history, mystery and romance.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Well written and fast paced, with a twist that will leave readers truly surprised. This novel is not to be missed.”
―RT Book Reviews


Other Titles by Rhys Bowen

In Farleigh Field

Molly Murphy Mysteries

  • Murphy’s Law
  • Death of Riley
    For the Love of Mike
    In Like Flynn
    Oh Danny Boy
    In Dublin’s Fair City
  • Tell Me, Pretty Maiden
  • In a Gilded Cage
    The Last Illusion
  • Bless the Bride
    Hush Now, Don’t You Cry
  • The Family Way
    City of Darkness and Light
  • The Edge of Dreams
  • Away in a Manger
  • Time of Fog and Fire

Royal Spyness Mysteries

  • Her Royal Spyness
  • A Royal Pain
  • Royal Flush
  • Royal Blood
  • Naughty in Nice
  • The Twelve Clues of Christmas
  • Heirs and Graces
  • Queen of Hearts
  • Malice at the Palace
  • Crowned and Dangerous

Constable Evans Mysteries

  • Evans Above
  • Evan Help Us
  • Evanly Choirs
  • Evan and Elle
  • Evan Can Wait
  • Evans to Betsy
  • Evan Only Knows
  • Evan’s Gate
  • Evan Blessed
  • Evanly Bodies

 

The Wake Up by Catherine Ryan Hyde

  • Title:  The Wake Up
  • Author:  Catherine Ryan Hyde
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  322
  • Published:  December 2017 – Lake Union Publishing
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  Something has been asleep in forty-year-old cattle rancher Aiden Delacorte for a long time. It all comes back in a rush during a hunting trip, when he’s suddenly attuned to the animals around him, feeling their pain and fear as if it were his own. But the newfound sensitivity of Aiden’s “wake up” has its price. He can no longer sleepwalk through life, holding everyone at arm’s length. As he struggles to cope with a trait he’s buried since childhood, Aiden falls in love with Gwen, a single mother whose young son bears a burden of his own.

Sullen and broken from his experiences with an abusive father, Milo has turned to acting out in violent and rebellious ways. Aiden can feel the boy’s pain, as well as that of his victims. Now he and Milo must sift through their pasts to find empathy with the innocent as well as the guilty, to come to terms with their deepest fears, and to finally discover the compassionate heart of a family. (publisher)

My take:   The Wake Up is a lovely story about family – mostly about a boy and a man both damaged by circumstances out of their control. The setting is a small California cattle ranch where horses are also raised. This novel is full of emotions and people learning how to give others and themselves room to grow. It’s about forgiveness – of oneself and others. The theme of empathy runs through it all. As I turned the last page I felt hopeful and very glad to have started the year with such a good novel.


 

When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

  • Title:  When We Were Worthy
  • Author:  Marybeth Mayhew Whalen
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  264
  • Published:  September 2017 – Lake Union Publishing
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  A win brought them together, but loss may tear them apart.

When the sound of sirens cuts through a cool fall night, the small town of Worthy, Georgia, hurtles from triumph to tragedy. Just hours before, they’d watched the Wildcats score a winning touchdown. Now, they’re faced with the deaths of three cheerleaders—their promising lives cut short in a fatal crash. And the boy in the other car—the only one to survive—is believed to be at fault. As rumors begin to fly and accusations spin, allegiances form and long-kept secrets emerge.

At the center of the whirlwind are four women, each grappling with loss, regret, shame, and lies: Marglyn, a grieving mother; Darcy, whose son had been behind the wheel; Ava, a substitute teacher with a scandalous secret; and Leah, a cheerleader who should have been in the car with her friends, but wasn’t. If the truth comes out, will it bring redemption—or will it be their downfall? (publisher)

My take:  It’s small town America on an autumn Friday night and the people of Worthy, Georgia are set to cheer on their high school football team. No one expects the tragic event that followed the game – an event that will affect more than those directly involved. When We Were Worthy is the story of the people left behind to grapple with what happened. And boy do they have a lot to deal with. Parents, students, and teachers all have questions that might never be answered – unless they are willing to face the truth. As a parent and as someone who went to a small town high school where football was the Friday night entertainment there was a lot to relate to in this novel. I found the plot riveting and loved how Marybeth Mayhew Whalen developed her characters via the short chapters. I especially loved the Emily Dickinson references that were interspersed throughout the novel. Recommended to fans of contemporary fiction.


Praise for When We Were Worthy:

When We Were Worthy is a startlingly clear look at life in a small town where the carefully crafted characters are neither heroes nor villains—they are simply real people wedged into an unimaginable situation. Heart-wrenching and vivid, this is a beautifully written novel about letting go and holding on, of family, of love, and, ultimately, of forgiveness.” —Karen White, New York Times bestselling author

When We Were Worthy is a poignant, haunting story of truths and secrets—the power of tragedy to unravel an entire community, and then stitch it back together—I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.” —Amber Smith, New York Times bestselling author of The Way I Used to Be

“Not everyone who lives in Worthy, Georgia lives up to the name. In When We Were Worthy, Marybeth Mayhew Whalen explores the spectrum of guilt and innocence in one small town after the tenuous connections between neighbors and friends are tested by a horrific accident. Told in alternating voices, this compulsively captivating novel weaves a tapestry of wrenching grief, love, anger, danger, and, eventually, hope.” —Ella Joy Olsen, author of Root, Petal, Thorn and Where the Sweet Bird Sings

“Fans of Lianne Moriarty and Jodi Picoult—this is an author for your favorites shelf. Marybeth Mayhew Whalen’s taut, smart novel is a natural-born page-turner that doesn’t sacrifice depth of feeling or character. Whalen knows this town, these people, and she lays them open for us with razor-sharp insight, wit, and empathy. Don’t miss this one.” —Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times bestselling author of Gods in Alabama and The Almost Sisters

“What do you do when your whole life is turned around, crushed, and destroyed? Do you rise above it? Do you seek revenge? Do you run away? Do you blame yourself? When We Were Worthy is a brilliant, gripping novel that challenges the fabric of who we think we are, a story that speaks to both the fragility and strength of the human spirit in the wake of tragedy. I highly, highly recommend this novel!” —Joy Callaway, author of The Fifth Avenue Artists Society and Secret Sisters


 

Working Fire by Emily Bleeker

  • Title:  Working Fire
  • Author:  Emily Bleeker
  • Genre:  Thriller
  • Pages:  320
  • Published:  August 2017 – Lake Union Publishing
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  Ellie Brown thought she’d finally escaped her stifling hometown of Broadlands, Illinois; med school was supposed to be her ticket out. But when her father has a stroke, she must return home to share his care with her older sister, Amelia, who’s busy with her own family. Working as a paramedic, Ellie’s days are monotonous, driving an ambulance through streets she’d hoped never to see again.

Until a 911 dispatch changes everything. The address: her sister’s house. Rushing to the scene, Ellie discovers that Amelia and her husband, Steve, have been shot in a home invasion. After Amelia is rushed to the hospital, Ellie tries to make sense of the tragedy. But what really happened inside her sister’s house becomes less and less clear. As Amelia hangs on in critical condition, Ellie uncovers dark revelations about her family’s past that challenge her beliefs about those closest to her…and force her to question where her devotions truly lie. (publisher)

My take:  Working Fire is the story of Ellie and Amelia, two sisters who live in the same small town where they grew up and share taking care of their father. Amelia is married and the mother of two young daughters. Ellie is single and works as a paramedic, having left medical school to help care for her former fire chief dad when he had a stroke. The sisters are very close and would do anything for each other. Ellie worships Amelia and her husband and their daughters. Amelia is a harried mom trying to keep everything going in her family. There’s a stress that’s growing in her marriage making her uncomfortable but not enough to share those thoughts with anyone, including her sister. How will she manage when she discovers what exactly is at the root of the stress. Working Fire is told from the two sisters’ perspectives – one from a current perspective and the other is a few weeks previous. That helped to reveal the story and how events played out in a way that kept me turning the pages. I enjoyed that aspect and yet felt rather ambivalent about the last few pages. I’m wondering if there could be a sequel planned. Or maybe it’s just how real life is for the rest of us – not neatly wrapped up. I look forward to reading more from Emily Bleeker.


About the author:

Emily Bleeker is a former educator who learned to love writing while teaching a writer’s workshop. After surviving a battle with a rare form of cancer, she finally found the courage to share her stories, starting with her debut novel, Wreckage, followed by the Wall Street Journal bestseller When I’m Gone. Emily currently lives with her family in suburban Chicago. Connect with her or request a Skype visit with your book club at http://www.emilybleeker.com.


 

Spotlight/US Giveaway: The End of Temperance Dare by Wendy Webb

About:  Haunting and atmospheric, The End of Temperance Dare is another thrilling page-turner from the author reviewers are calling the Queen of the Northern Gothic.

When Eleanor Harper becomes the director of a renowned artists’ retreat, she knows nothing of Cliffside Manor’s dark past as a tuberculosis sanatorium, a “waiting room for death.” After years of covering murder and violence as a crime reporter, Eleanor hopes that being around artists and writers in this new job will be a peaceful retreat for her as much as for them.

But from her first fog-filled moments on the manor’s grounds, Eleanor is seized by a sense of impending doom and realizes there’s more to the institution than its reputation of being a haven for creativity. After the arrival of the new fellows―including the intriguing, handsome photographer Richard Banks―she begins to suspect that her predecessor chose the group with a dangerous purpose in mind. As the chilling mysteries of Cliffside Manor unravel and the eerie sins of the past are exposed, Eleanor must fight to save the fellows—and herself—from sinister forces. (publisher)


Praise for THE END OF TEMPERANCE DARE:

“[In] this solid supernatural thriller…Webb succeeds in escalating suspense while keeping her story grounded, but goes full-on Exorcist for the finale.” Publishers Weekly

“Webb’s (The Vanishing, 2014) fourth novel is a high-energy ride peppered with just the right amount of romance seeking, coffee drinking, and wine sipping.” Booklist

“Wendy Webb is a pro at providing all the trappings of a good Gothic mystery.…A fun read.” —Criminal Element

“Chilling…” Gumshoe Review


About the author:  Wendy Webb knew from the minute she read A Wrinkle in Time at age eleven that she was destined to be a writer. After two decades as a journalist, writing for varied publications including USA Today, the Huffington Post, the Star Tribune, Midwest Living, and others, Wendy wrote her first novel, The Tale of Halcyon Crane. When it won the 2011 Minnesota Book Award for genre fiction, she started writing fiction full-time. Her second and third novels, The Fate of Mercy Alban and The Vanishing, established her as a leading suspense novelist, who reviewers are calling the Queen of the Northern Gothic. She lives in Minneapolis with her part-time dog, Zeus, and is at work on her next novel. Visit her online at http://www.wendykwebb.com and on Facebook and Instagram as wendywebbauthor.


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Giveaway ends on August 16, 2017


Everything We Left Behind by Kerry Lonsdale; US Giveaway: Everything We Keep

  • Title:  Everything We Left Behind
  • Series:  Everything We Keep #2
  • Author:  Kerry Lonsdale
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction; Suspense
  • Pages:  348
  • Published:  July 2017 – Lake Union Publishing

Description:  Two months before his wedding, financial executive James Donato chased his trade-laundering brother Phil to Mexico, only to be lost at sea and presumed dead. Six and a half years later, he emerges from a dissociative fugue state to find he’s been living in Oaxaca as artist Carlos Dominguez, widower and father of two sons, with his sister-in-law Natalya Hayes, a retired professional surfer, helping to keep his life afloat. But his fiancée, Aimee Tierney, the love of his life, has moved on. She’s married and has a child of her own.

Devastated, James and his sons return to California. But Phil is scheduled for release from prison, and he’s determined to find James, who witnessed something in Mexico that could land Phil back in confinement. Under mounting family pressure, James flees with his sons to Kauai, seeking refuge with Natalya. As James begins to unravel the mystery of his fractured identity, danger is never far behind, and Natalya may be the only person he can trust.

My take:  I enjoyed Everything We Keep – book 1 in the series so I was excited to read  Everything We Left Behind. Book 2 picks up where the first left off so I recommend reading in order. In the new book Kerry Lonsdale gives readers James’ perspective of the events that changed his life. It’s an intriguing story that involves family dysfunction, criminal activities, and the unimaginable fall-out one man will be forced to confront. The chapters alternate between present day and several years earlier which allows James’ story to develop fully. I liked this novel a lot and look forward to Everything We Give – in summer 2018.


About the author:

Kerry Lonsdale is the Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon Kindle bestselling author of Everything We Keep and All the Breaking Waves. She resides in Northern California with her husband and two children. Learn more about Kerry at http://www.kerrylonsdale.com.


US Giveaway of Book 1: Everything We Keep

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Giveaway ends on July 31, 2017


One Wrong Turn by Deanna Lynn Sletten

  • Title:  One Wrong Turn
  • Author:  Deanna Lynn Sletten
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  204
  • Published:  June 2017 – Lake Union Publishing
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

My take:  One Wrong Turn by Deanna Lynn Sletten is the story of Clay and Jess. They met, fell in love, married and had two daughters. Life didn’t continue that smoothly though. Clay made a wrong turn and fell into the grip of alcohol, just as his own father had. Jess never faltered in her love for him as he went into rehab time after time. Her vow of “for better or for worse” truly meant something to her. When she could no longer remain stagnant in his decisions she finally made her own decision to protect herself and their daughters. Fast-forward to a couple of years later. Jess was getting ready to open a B&B and while running errands one day is involved in a car accident. Life changed for everyone. Clay, gone from his daughters’ lives for two years, must step up and handle things. Can he ever make his family whole again? One Wrong Turn is a heartfelt story of redemption, second chances, and never giving up. Recommend to fans of novels about family drama.


About the author:

Author Deanna Lynn Sletten believes in fate, love at first sight, soul mates, second chances, and happily ever after. When she initially started writing women’s fiction and romance, she decided to self-publish her first three novels. Since then, she has published twelve books—including Finding Libbie, her second book with Lake Union Publishing. She lives in a small town in northern Minnesota and is married with two grown children. When she’s not writing, she enjoys relaxing in a boat on the lake and walking the wooded trails around her home with her beautiful Australian shepherd.

Her blog: www.deannalynnsletten.com
Twitter: @DeannaLSletten
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DeannaLynnSletten


 

Allie and Bea by Catherine Ryan Hyde

  • Title:  Allie and Bea
  • Author:  Catherine Ryan Hyde
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  350
  • Pub. date:  May 23, 2017 – Lake Union Publishing
  • Source:  Publisher; Little Bird Publicity

Description:  Bea has barely been scraping by since her husband died. After falling for a telephone scam, she loses everything and is forced to abandon her trailer. With only two-thirds of a tank in her old van, she heads toward the Pacific Ocean with her cat—on a mission to reclaim what’s rightfully hers, even if it means making others pay for what she lost.

When fifteen-year-old Allie’s parents are jailed for tax fraud, she’s sent to a group home. But when her life is threatened by another resident, she knows she has to get out. She escapes only to find she has nowhere to go—until fate throws Allie in Bea’s path.

Reluctant to trust each other, much less become friends, the two warily make their way up the Pacific Coast. Yet as their hearts open to friendship and love from the strangers they meet on their journey, they find the courage to forge their own unique family—and begin to see an imperfect world with new eyes.  (publisher)

My take:  Allie and Bea is the story of two unlikely traveling companions. Allie is a teenager on the run and Bea is a seventy-something widow who recently lost everything except her van and a few other items. When their paths cross the two form an uneasy alliance as they set off on a road trip that will be full of lessons neither expected to learn.

I found Catherine Ryan Hyde’s writing style so comfortable to read. I was invested in the characters and their plight. I liked how they challenged themselves and each other to persevere in such dire circumstances. Even though they experienced some daunting events it was an uplifting read for me. Bea found that change wasn’t necessarily a negative thing and Allie learned that the world isn’t as black and white as she’d thought. A new perspective could create appreciation for even the most basic things. It’s a lovely novel that I recommend to fans of the author and contemporary fiction.


About the author:  Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of thirty-two published books. Her bestselling 1999 novel, Pay It Forward, adapted into a major Warner Bros. motion picture starring Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt, made the American Library Association’s Best Books for Young Adults list and was translated into more than two dozen languages for distribution in more than thirty countries. Her novels Becoming Chloe and Jumpstart the World were included on the ALA’s Rainbow List; Jumpstart the World was also a finalist for two Lambda Literary Awards and won Rainbow Awards in two categories. The Language of Hoofbeats won a Rainbow Award. More than fifty of her short stories have been published in many journals, including the Antioch Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, the Virginia Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, and the Sun, and in the anthologies Santa Barbara Stories and California Shorts as well as the bestselling anthology Dog Is My Co-Pilot. Her short fiction received honorable mention in the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest, a second-place win for the Tobias Wolff Award, and nominations for Best American Short Stories, the O. Henry Award, and the Pushcart Prize. Three have also been cited in Best American Short Stories. Hyde is the founder and former president of the Pay It Forward Foundation. As a professional public speaker, she has addressed the National Conference on Education, twice spoken at Cornell University, met with AmeriCorps members at the White House, and shared a dais with Bill Clinton.


 

Spotlight/US Giveaway: Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan

I want to wish Mark Sullivan a happy publication day of his novel

BENEATH A SCARLET SKY.

Based on the true story of a forgotten hero, Beneath a Scarlet Sky is the triumphant, epic tale of one young man’s incredible courage and resilience during one of history’s darkest hours.

Pino Lella wants nothing to do with the war or the Nazis. He’s a normal Italian teenager—obsessed with music, food, and girls—but his days of innocence are numbered. When his family home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs, Pino joins an underground railroad helping Jews escape over the Alps, and falls for Anna, a beautiful widow six years his senior.

In an attempt to protect him, Pino’s parents force him to enlist as a German soldier—a move they think will keep him out of combat. But after Pino is injured, he is recruited at the tender age of eighteen to become the personal driver for Adolf Hitler’s left hand in Italy, General Hans Leyers, one of the Third Reich’s most mysterious and powerful commanders.

Now, with the opportunity to spy for the Allies inside the German High Command, Pino endures the horrors of the war and the Nazi occupation by fighting in secret, his courage bolstered by his love for Anna and for the life he dreams they will one day share.

Fans of All the Light We Cannot SeeThe Nightingale, and Unbroken will enjoy this riveting saga of history, suspense, and love.


About the author:  Mark Sullivan is the acclaimed author of eighteen novels, including the #1 New York Times bestselling Private series, which he writes with James Patterson. Mark has received numerous awards for his writing, including the WHSmith Fresh Talent Award, and his works have been named a New York Times Notable Book and a Los Angeles Times Book of the Year. He grew up in Medfield, Massachusetts, and graduated from Hamilton College with a BA in English before working as a volunteer in the Peace Corps in Niger, West Africa. Upon his return to the United States, he earned a graduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and began a career in investigative journalism. An avid skier and adventurer, he lives with his wife in Bozeman, Montana, where he remains grateful for the miracle of every moment.


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Giveaway ends on May 8, 2017